January 02, 2009

Adam Beach as Tonto?!

In the comments section of Indians Don't Care About Depp? someone too afraid to post his or her name wrote:That's just funny as hell for how much you "support" and kiss up to no talent hacks like Adam Beach and others who portray people who are not of their nation ALL THE TIME. In fact...I bet you can't name one role where he played an Ojibwe (Salteaux) for example?!

BTW--how in the world do you know how much Native blood Johnny Depp has? Prove it. One thing you are good for is a laugh of constant hypocrisy.

Johnny Depp, in your "world" has only played one character in his acting career??? Check his imdb, since you are more than lost on reality there, but then again, no one ever accused you of fact checking before spewing.
My response:

What's funny as hell is your talking about something you know so little about. Let's go through your comments and pick them to pieces.

I don't think I've written much if anything about Beach's acting ability. What I have written about is the roles he's played. In general I've been critical of these roles: Jim Chee in the Leaphorn movies, Charles Eastman in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Blue Duck in Comanche Moon, Chester Lake in Law and Order: SVU, et al. If you think I've praised everything he's done, you're woefully ignorant of my positions.

Since many Native roles aren't identified by tribe, I'm not sure what tribes Beach has played. But he may have played an Ojibwe in several roles--in North of 60, Dance Me Outside, Now & Forever, Moose TV, or Older than America, among others. If so, there goes your point out the window. Oops.

But what if he didn't? Does casting Beach as, say, a Navajo justify casting Depp as an Apache? Not really. Have you ever heard of "two wrongs don't make a right"?

Beach vs. Depp

Let's talk about the idea of casting Beach as Tonto. As far as I know, Beach is a full-blooded Indian--unlike Depp. Beach participates actively in Native causes and culture--unlike Depp. Those are two big points in his favor. Other things being equal, I'd say Beach is a better choice to play Tonto.

Incidentally, Beach has won several acting awards, according to IMDB.com. There was even talk of an Oscar nomination for his role in Flags of Our Fathers. So I wouldn't say he's a "no-talent hack."

But I'm not recommending Beach to play Tonto, nitwit. Since your reading comprehension is sadly lacking, let me repeat what I said:For a full-blooded Apache role like Tonto, a Native is better than a non-Native, an Apache is better than an Eastern Cherokee, and a full-blood is better than a 1/16th blood.Are you under the impression that I've deviated from this position? That I think every Native is equally qualified to play every Native role? If so, go ahead and quote me on it. Put up or shut up.

Who should play Tonto?

Did you miss the times when I said I thought Wes Studi doesn't look much like a Navajo (Joe Leaphorn) or an Apache (Geronimo)? You must have. If I didn't give a full-blooded Cherokee like him a pass, why would I give the barely-Cherokee Depp a pass? No reason, obviously.

For Tonto, I explicitly recommended a relatively unknown Native actor. Preferably someone with an Athabascan (Apache or Navajo) look and feel. Both factors leave Beach out. So your asinine assertion that I want him to play the role is the opposite of the truth.

Regarding Depp's Indian background, I quoted the evidence I found in Johnny Depp, Cherokee? Prove this evidence is wrong if you can. Cite and quote your sources as I've done. But whatever you do, don't waste my time with insinuations you can't or won't back up.

And look up the word "hypocrisy" while you're at it, since you clearly don't understand what it means. Even if I don't know the exact percentage of Depp's Native blood, there's nothing hypocritical about summarizing and stating the evidence I found. The only hypocritical thing here would be your pretending you've researched Depp's background when you haven't.

Rob doesn't know Depp?

Your stupidest claim is the last one. Because I talked about only one of Depp's roles, you think I know only about one role? Wow, that's really, really stupid.

Since you're about as ignorant as Russell Bates on this issue, I suggest you read my response to him. That should disabuse you of your idiotic notion that I know nothing about Depp. Next time, do your own fact-checking before you spew your ignorance about me.

Not surprisingly, given your record so far, you missed the point of my Pirates comment. I wasn't questioning Depp's acting qualifications. I was questioning the specific approach he used to interpret a pirate in the Pirates franchise. Carole Levine argued that this was a good reason to cast him as Tonto and I disagreed.

Is the fog in your brain clearing yet? To reiterate, it wasn't a general critique of Depp. It was a specific critique of the idea of interpreting a pirate or an Indian in an inauthentic manner. I didn't refer to Depp's other movies because he didn't interpret pirates in other movies. Duhhh.


Who are you, anyway...Depp's mommy? Now that you've done your duty as the president of the "I love Johnny" fan club, why don't you start thinking critically? Stop insulting my intelligence and start addressing the issues I've raised.

I believe every book on Natives in Hollywood criticizes the use of non-Indians to play Indians. I suspect many books criticize the use of members of one tribe to play members of another. For instance, Navajos playing Plains Indians but speaking Navajo in John Ford's movies. If you think I invented these critiques and inserted them into old books because I'm obsessed with Beach, you're even more deluded than I thought.

Sheesh. For a relatively short comment, you sure made a lot of dumb mistakes, Anonymous. Try not to sound so ignorant next time so I don't have to ridicule you for it, okay?

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

Below:  "I'm as much of a Native as Todd Palin!"

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